4 Patterns Used by Predators

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Keeping yourself safe requires more than the skills and techniques you can learn and practice. Understanding, at least a little, the mindset and thinking patterns of those who prey on others can help prevent making risky decisions. The key to application of such understanding is awareness. Awareness is a topic often brought up in these articles, though usually in the context of physical surroundings. Two of the patterns listed below fall into that context. The other two patterns introduce a new arena of awareness: social.

1. Stacking the Deck. A predator preys on others for a gain of some kind. The pressure behind that need is usually such that failure to attain, even a partial failure, would cause a major detriment to his existence. A successful predator is intelligent. He will give himself as many advantages as he can, and give the victim as many disadvantages as possible. To that end, he will use weapons, surprise, deceit, confederates–whatever it takeds to get the upper ground.

2. Controlling the Environment. Controlling the environment is part of stacking the deck. It is when a predator determines location and time, even placing obstacles to prevent escape or aid. They decide on, and alter as necessary, the environment to minimize their risk. By controlling the environment a predator greatly reduces the variables he needs to worry about.

3. Qualifying the Target. Just as a salesperson or marketer qualifies potential customers, predators qualify their targets. There are several methods used by predators ranging in intrusiveness and aggressiveness. The two extremes, observation and yelling-in-your-face, are the two most frightening. To victimes of a predator using the first, it feels like an assault out of the blue. Victims of the latter tend to freeze as previously unknown levels of adrenaline hit their system. Most qualification techniques fall somewhere in between. Whatever the method, the purpose is the same: to determine susceptibility. Most qualifications also determine how willing the target is to abandon social norms. This where social awareness comes into play. Predators often rely on people’s reluctance to break social norms. If you feel yourself being trapped by social norms, it may be time to get rude by walking away.

4. Forced Teaming. Forced teaming is a term I learned from The Gift of Fear. It is a particularly insidious form of qualifying, and requires an acute sense of social awareness to spot. Forced teaming refers to the use of language to create a sense of commonality and trust between predator and victim. Words suc as “let’s” and “we” are prime examples of forced teaming language. So how do you tell the difference between forced teaming and someone who is just being friendly? Forced teaming is often accompanied by a refusal to accept “no” as an answer.

Each of these categories could easily be expanded into an article, or even an article series, on its own. There are other pattern categories and sub-categories used by predators. I invite anyone interested in more information to do research on their own. Two excellent places to start are The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBaker and Meditations on Violence by Sgt. Rory Miller. I’ll also answer what questions I can.

Stay safe.

Cat Wars: The Beast

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This past weekend, I decided it was time to clean and do some minor rearrangement of my room. Knowing how the cats of the house feel about each other, I made sure the Downstairs Faction was locked up before opening my door and propping it open. Why open my door at all? I thought I’d give the cats an opportunity to leave the area for a while. Though the rearrangements I’d planned were minor, any change has the potential to freak a cat. Especially when I bring in the vacuum cleaner.

The vacuum cleaner is a Noise-some Beast. The elder of my two cats, Teazer (the one I refer to as the Mastermind), rarely shows the body language of fear. She’s cautious and tends to avoid any confrontation, but rarely actually fearful, much less terrified. Her first encounter with a vacuum cleaner went something like this:

Noise-some Beast: VROOOM!
Mastermind: *vanish* *reappear under the couch* *watch wide-eyed*
Noise-some Beast: *searches the room while roaring* *approaches couch* VROOOM!
Mastermind: *slips out the back and perches on the backrest* *glares*
Noise-some Beast: *searches a little longer, then slinks quietly off to sleep*

And that was it. She quickly learned that the vaccuum cleaner was no real threat, especially if she waited out its periodic incursions perched on a desk or bookshelf. She’s even gone up and sniffed at it while it was “sleeping in its den”.

The younger of my cats, Rika (the one I call the Might Huntress), is another matter. Judging from her body language, she likes to think of herself as an alpha-cat. Since Teazer tends to avoid confrontations, Rika is rarely given reason to doubt her alpha-status. Unfortunately for her, she is very skittish and frightens easily. Definitely not the temperament of an alpha. Her first encounter with the vacuum cleaner went very differently.

Mighty Huntress: *lounges indolently in the middle of the floor*
Noise-some Beast: *enters the room and pauses at the edge* VROOOM!
Might Huntress: *jumps up and flees to hide under the bed with a now empty bladder*
Noise-some Beast: *stops moving but continues to roar as Two-Legged Alpha cleans*
Mighty Huntress: *watches the Noise-some Beast from under the bed, panting and slicked down fur*
Noise-some Beast: *starts moving again*
Mighty Huntress: *voids bowels and crams herself into the far corner under the bed*
Noise-some Beast: *gives up and leaves*

Rika has since learned that turning the floor into a litter box is not necessary, though she still insists on hiding under the bed instead of getting on top of something.

“…and by opposing end them.”

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I finally realized where some of my problems lie: I see myself as currently having little justification for my existence. This does not mean I feel like I’m useless or worthless. It simply means I feel as though I’m accomplishing nothing with my life, that nothing I do will matter. In many ways, I think of myself as a failure. How can I justify that viewpoint? Simple: it’s an easier and shorter list to point out my successes. Even limiting a list of failures to equal the amount of successes, matching biggest failure to biggest success, it becomes abundantly clear that I’m losing that tug-of-war.

However, I don’t see myself as a loser. Failure upon failure is a heavy burden. At times a VERY heavy burden. It takes me longer and longer to recover from each. And yet, I do…eventually. And that eventual recovery is why, though a failure, I am not a loser. As a failure, I still hold to certain guiding principles:

1. Take responsibility for my own actions or inaction.
2. Respond to each person and situation with as much grace as possible.
3. Giving up on life is not an option, though rest and recovery are often necessary.

4 Exercises for Self-Defense

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*Note: This is a reprint of an article I wrote under another name a while back.*

No one denies there is a physical component to self-defense. I normally recommend a total body workout; however, not everyone has the time or desire to spend several hours a week working out. There are a couple of types of exercise I recommend for those who have only a couple hours each week. There are also a couple of specific exercises I recommend.

1. Aerobic. Aerobic exercise increases your body’s ability to bring in and process oxygen. Among the many benefits of aerobic exercise, increased efficiency in bringing in and processing oxygen increases endurance during prolonged, moderate effort such as jogging quickly. It also helps decrease how long it takes for your heart and respiration to return to normal. The ability to keep going is essential in getting out of a dangerous situation.

2. Interval training. Interval training combines aerobic exercise with anaerobic exercise. In plain terms, you give maximum effort for a short period of time (usually between 30 seconds and 3 minutes), then you recover by doing moderate effort exercises. For example, you might sprint 150 to 200 yards, then slow jog for another 2-300 yards before sprinting again. As you might imagine, this kind of training could be very useful in breaking away from someone and then outlasting him.

3. Squat jumps. First, a description: stand upright with feet about shoulder-width apart, squat down as low as you can go (or until your thighs are parallel to the floor, whichever is first), hold the position for a second, then jump as high as you can. That’s 1 rep. Why squat jumps? Squat jumps work on increasing explosive power. By increasing your explosive power for jumping, you’ll be able to jump further, faster, and with less preparation than you otherwise would be able to—very handy for jumping out of the way of an oncoming car.

4. Post-exercise stretching. Okay, so it’s not an exercise in and of itself, but stretching to increase your flexibility is probably one of the best things you can do in the world of physical self-defense. For example, the classic chicken wing hold. (Someone doubles your arm behind you and tries to put your hand between your shoulder blades, thus putting severe pressure on your shoulder.) With a high range of motion (ROM), this technique requires an extra couple of steps in order to work. The time it takes them to accomplish these extra steps may be enough time for you to escape. One other thing to consider is increased flexibility reduces the chance of injury during physical exertion.

Please keep in mind, I am not a licensed personal trainer. Before you begin any physical training, I highly recommend you speak with a personal trainer. They will ask several questions, and use your answers to create an exercise regimen tailored to your current physical condition. They will also demonstrate the proper way to perform various exercises and help keep you motivated.

The Long, Slow Climb

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Hey all. Sorry for the week without a post. I hit a truly bad patch of apathy. Seriously. I did almost nothing the entire week. I slept most of the week because I couldn’t get out of bed. Anyway, here’s to a better week.

Cat Wars: Return of the Paw

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The Mighty Huntress awoke at the sound of snuffling at her territory border. She slinked towards the Barrier that defined the edge of her territory. Yes. A shadow moved on the other side, and a nose appeared at the base of the Barrier. A little closer to sniff. Ah! It was indeed her hated rival was on the other side. It had been a long time since her rival had dared attempt the lair of the Mighty Huntress.

A paw darted under the door, streaking toward the Mighty Huntress, claws extended. She leapt up and back, landing with back arched and her tail bushing to make herself look bigger. The Mighty Huntress took stock of the situation. That paw couldn’t extend far into the room. She watched it wave wildly about for a minute, then purred contentedly to herself. No. It couldn’t reach her. In fact….

The Mighty Huntress edged closer…closer. She hunkered just out of range. So her rival thought to intimidate her. Tucking paws under, the Mighty Huntress assumed the position called “Kitty Loaf”. The paw retracted to the other side of the Barrier. This wouldn’t do at all. She purred loudly. The paw reappeared and flailed wildly…futilely. The Mighty Huntress’ purr took on a distinct note of contentment. She rolled on her back and assumed the spine-twisting, but oddly comfortable, position called “Kitty Yoga”. Yes. Much better. Her rival’s flailing paw whacked the door and carpet in an uncontrollable rage before withdrawing. A moment later, she saw her rival’s shadow slinked off dejectedly, beaten by the Barrier and her taunting.

Yes Sweat!

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I overheard one woman asking the woman next to her to excuse her “grossness” during my Wednesday TurboKick class because she had just come in from running. To be fair, from her point of view, she probably did feel a bit gross and self-conscious because she’d been running outside in a Texas July afternoon and her shirt was absolutely soaked. I, on the other hand, had the urge to tap her on the shoulder and let her know exactly what I think of a sweaty woman.

There are few things more appealing to me than a woman who is not afraid to sweat from exertion. She may not feel attractive at the time, but I often find myself saying nothing for fear of crossing the lines of civility. I think a woman who sweats during exercising is all-around more attractive than those who don’t exercise for fear of “looking bad”. The reasons range from the cosmetic to the I’m-trying-to-keep-this-post-PG.

In terms of cosmetics, I find women who regularly work up a sweat have better complexion whether they’re sweating or not. There’s no doubt of the cleansing effect sweat has on the skin. Nor is there any doubt about the effects of improved circulation on skin tone.

More than it’s long- and short-term effects on appearance, I enjoying watching women working up a sweat because I can see more about her than when she has her “face” on. The personalities that come out usually far overshadow the appearance. Among other things, a woman who is not afraid to sweat is also not afraid to have fun, to enjoy whatever activity she’s doing to the utmost.

One of the reasons I’ve been told some women are afraid to sweat is the smell. The only time sweat “smells” is if it’s left to dry on the skin too long. Is it totally scentless? Not usually. But the scent it carries is rarely unpleasant. In fact, sweating is probably the most efficient way of spreading pheromones, the body chemical that induces attraction in others. To me, fresh sweat has a raw but pleasant scent that’s hard to find anywhere else.

Sweating is healthy, natural, and often desirable. Give me a choice between a perfect 10 in a dress and anyone else sweating in a gym or exercise class and I’ll always prefer the sweating woman. So women, don’t apologize for sweating…especially when exercising. It’s almost like saying “I’m sorry for making myself a better person.”

4 Everyday Uses for Self-Defense

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*Note: This is a reprint of an article I wrote under another name a while back.*

I’ve said that self-defense is an attitude backed by knowledge and skills. The knowledge and skills critical to self-defense are very useful in other aspects of your life. And practicing them in your life will keep them sharp for when you need to keep yourself safe.

1. Knowing where things are or can be found. Everyone knows that “awareness” is part of self-defense, but few people understand it in everyday terms. Do you know where the nearest fire extinguisher is? How about the nearest box of Band-Aids? In a more mundane example of awareness, imagine this: you’ve just come home from a long day. You enter through the front door and walk through the living room in order to get to your bedroom so you can change out of your office attire. Did you notice what was in the living room? Where was the remote for the TV? What was on the coffee table? If you saw a magazine on the coffee table, but that it wasn’t lying flat, and couldn’t find the remote for the TV, instead of digging through the couch cushions (because that’s where you found it LAST time), you might find it under the magazine.

2. Knowing who’s around. Ever have someone sneak up on you without meaning to? When was the last time you knew where everyone around you was without having to make visual contact? How about shouting out to someone, only to turn around and find they’ve been standing in the doorway? If someone asked you, “Where’s David?”, could you actually tell them where he was?

3. Finding out about people without asking. I scared someone a couple years back. It was at a reunion, and I’d just been introduced to him. Someone asked him where he was living now, and before he could say anything, I said, “Hondo.” I was a guest of one of the attendees, no one else knew me. The guy gave me a nervous look before confirming my statement. How did I know? He had a key tag with “Hondo Public Library” hanging out of his pocket. When I told him this, he laughed and pushed the tag all the way into his pocket.

4. Knowing the area. How can you give directions if you don’t know your area? Do you know which neighborhood dogs are friendly and which are not? If you’re in a hurry, do you know which alleys and side streets offer the quickest way from point A to point B?

Beware of assuming something taught in a self-defense workshop is properly used only in a self-defense situation. The skills associated with self-defense are useful for a great many tasks beyond their stated purpose.

A Cross Posting

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Agent of the Dragon has been updated. The part I’ve been posting was originally part of a longer story. When I began looking for an agent (if any are out there and interested, I’m still looking), I realized that this section was mainly world-building and added little to the rest of the story. Nevertheless, it has its own small story arc and so I’m posting it as an extended prologue.

I welcome any and all comments and discussion.

Pres-sing Difficulties

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We are in the final week of preparation for our end of season performance: long rehearsal on Wednesday, extra rehearsal Thursday, and a dress rehearsal on Saturday. We’re singing Bach’s Cantata No. 37. The Saturday rehearsal is with the orchestra. I’m way out of my depth.

My personal music background is primarily a couple decades of playing violin. And one semester of beginning voice. Fifteen years ago. I sang with the church choir for a year or so at that time. After a decade and a half, I rejoined the choir four months ago.

I still have a basic grasp of music theory (from a violinist’s point of view), and a rough of idea of the mechanics of musicality. Unfortunately, that’s about all that transfers. After twenty years of focusing entirely on treble clef, now I need to teach myself bass clef. Also, the layout of the music on the page is very different. As a violinist, the music is mostly laid out as a single part. You read it kind of like you read a page of text, left to right, top to bottom, one line after another. In other words, the only notes on the page are ones I play (with a couple of exceptions such as high-low split within a section). In vocal music, all four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) and the accompaniment are on the page. It’s kind of like trying to read only the fourth line of every paragraph in quick succession.

Then comes the issue of sound production. Having been around various musicians all my life, I’ve heard lots about “breath support”. I even understood, in an academic way, what it meant. Convincing my body to do it is another matter. Doing it without letting the rest me tense up is also an interesting proposition. Why is breath support necessary? First, the obvious example, when was the last time you tried singing full voice for an hour and a half? Without breath support, I (at least) start losing my voice half an hour in. Another reason? Try singing at whisper levels without slipping into actually whispering AND with projection.

Then comes the intonation issues. I’m fairly good at determining in/out of tune at the register of the violin. I’m also decent at fixing it. Tuning not only a few octaves lower, but also adapting to a totally different sound characteristic is difficult at best. Now, after four months of tuning myself to a piano, we’re tuning to an organ and an orchestra.

After all the equipment differences, sound production, and intonation difficulties have been overcome. That should be it, right? AHAHAHAHAHA! Now comes pronunciation and enunciation. (Yes, there is a difference. Look it up.) I’m constantly amazed at how many ways there are to sing the sound ‘ah’. Oh, yes. Did I mention we’re singing this in German? Here’s the list of languages I’ve taken: Japanese, Russian, Kyrgyz, Latin. Here’s the list of languages I can usually sound out: French, Hebrew (with transliteration), Spanish. Oh look. No German.

Despite all these barriers, singing in a group is fun. The barriers make it challenging, make the effort worthwhile. Putting vocal music together is a challenging and multi-level puzzle, at the moment. Getting the mental components to line up with the physical components is a test of almost spiritual agility. When it work, the reward is nearly sublime. Even if I don’t particularly like the music being sung.

Putting this performance together has been frustrating, difficult, embarrassing, and a whole lot of fun. The icing on this rather bizarre cake? It turns out that my elementary school music teacher is one of the sopranos of the choir.